The NY Rangers are in a rut, but it shouldn't last

It’s been a rough few games for the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts have lost two in a row for the first time this season and were thoroughly outplayed by two non-playoff teams. This came on the heels of two pretty bad wins over Nashville and San Jose that were much closer than they should have been. The Rangers are in a rut, and there’s no other way to describe it.

We saw the warning signs though. Rush chances are certainly a problem. The Blueshirts have been burned by odd man rushes, notably because their forecheck has been non-existent and they aren’t slowing teams down on the breakout or through the neutral zone. Their fundamentals have gone out the window and they’ve reverted back to their play style under Gerard Gallant.

The Rangers are in a rut, and these things happen. Like we said earlier, the Rangers weren’t going to continue on an 80% points pace. That’s a 131 point season. Only three teams in history have done that, and by the time the Rangers were hitting that pace, they had already lost Adam Fox and Filip Chytil. They then lost Kaapo Kakko.

Keep in mind, this recent slide coincided with Kakko getting hurt. Kakko and Chytil are two of the Rangers best defensive forwards, and two of their better forecheckers as well. Chytil in particular as F3 in the 2-1-2, the read and react part of the forecheck, is a big loss. But what both of these guys do in the offensive zone, digging for pucks along the boards and driving play, is the biggest factor.

When the Rangers can’t sustain offense, they play on their heels. It’s why the teams under Gerard Gallant were so bad at 5v5. They were one-and-done in the offensive zone, and were propped up by a powerplay. We are seeing that rear its ugly head again. But the Rangers are in a rut, and when ruts happen, old habits die hard.

The Rangers are in a rut, but it won’t last forever

The good news is, despite the Rangers being in a rut, this won’t last. The Rangers are too good and, believe it or not, Peter Laviolette is a coach that makes adjustments pretty quickly. We may even see something for tonight’s showdown against the LA Kings, which I thought was going to be yesterday (RSV is brutal. I recommend avoiding).

How long it lasts, though, is a different animal. The Rangers have no cap space to address their injuries, and as long as they continue to use LTIR space, they can’t accrue space for a deal to be made. So they will continue to use 4-A players like Riley Nash and Jonny Brodzinski until Chytil is able to play again.

Chris Drury is also a very methodical GM, and he won’t rush to make a move. Remember that first year under Gerard Gallant? The Rangers had very clear holes in the lineup, but Drury didn’t make his moves until the trade deadline. Expect more of the same, especially with the injuries and LTIR impacting their ability to even make moves.

We did muse about Brennan Othmann, and I do think he will eventually become an option. But for now, let him continue to cook and gain confidence while he rolls in Hartford. Ditto Brett Berard.

It’s easy to point fingers

What’s interesting is that many are pointing fingers. Igor Shesterkin hasn’t been himself. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider are doing diddly at 5v5. Adam Fox looks like he isn’t 100%. It’s easy to point fingers, especially to the top half of the lineup. However, as with everything, it’s not just finger pointing and nuance is required.

There’s a lot going on with the Rangers: A new system, a honeymoon period ending, injuries, slow starts, etc. All of it is coming to a head as we speak. Such is the NHL.

The Rangers are in a rut, but they are too good for this to continue for the rest of the season. It may be a bumpy road this month, and the schedule won’t help. But I ask you this: Would you rather this rut be in December or in May?


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